Oversight Subcommittee Chair Griffith Opening Remarks at Covid Select Subcommittee Hearing with Dr. Fauci

Washington, D.C. — Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) delivered the following opening statement at the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing titled "A Hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci." Given ongoing coordinated efforts, Committee Leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee were permitted to participate in the hearing.

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"Good morning, I want to again thank the leadership of this committee for including Energy and Commerce Committee in this hearing.

"Dr. Fauci, the recent revelations that Dr. Morens, a Senior Advisor, and your Chief of Staff, Gregg Folkers, routinely evaded federal records laws, including the Freedom of Information Act, were a shock.

"I’ve been doing oversight for 14 years and the scale of the effort to evade FOIA by some at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, has surprised even me.

"These men were among your most senior and trusted staff at an agency you led for almost forty years. They worked for you for decades. Your calendars show that you met with them multiple times a week during the pandemic. 

"You co-authored dozens of papers with Dr. Morens. He directly implicates you. Even the head of NIAID FOIA office was apparently in on some of this conspiracy.

"When the facts lead to the fact that your agency was involved in some form of a conspiracy related to COVID origins, we have to follow those facts.

"It is hard time believing that all of this occurred without your knowledge and approval.  

"In civil law, when one party has destroyed or refuses to produce evidence in its possession, a jury is allowed to draw an adverse inference that the information destroyed or not produced was unfavorable.

"Until we get a full accounting of the communications among NIAID’s leadership, it’s reasonable for us to assume that missing information would mirror the private doubts expressed by so many virologists and other scientists. 

"While telling the public, the media and Congress that COVID-19 almost certainly emerged from nature, experts you convened as a team privately worried that a research related incident was a possible if not the probable origin of the virus. Dr. Kristian Andersen even said in February of 2020, 'I think the main thing still in my mind is that the lab escape version of this is so friggin’ likely to have happened because they were already doing this type of work and molecular data is fully consistent with that scenario.'

"Further, while you and other NIAID officials were assuring us that the virus could not have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, NIAID had no actual idea what the full scope of the WIV’s coronavirus research was or even the trajectory of its gain-of-function research.

"That may be because EcoHealth wouldn't give you the reports. I grant that.

"But this joint investigation has shown just how little oversight NIAID does of risky experiments involving potential pandemic pathogens.

"NIAID set up a system designed to green-light potentially risky experiments while avoiding HHS Departmental level review.

"The same program officers who act as 'advocates' for their scientific area are responsible for assessing whether an experiment is too dangerous.

"That system creates a clear conflict of interest.

"I think that means taking final approval and oversight away from the agencies, like NIAID, that fund it."